Although still known for its squeaky clean, no nonsense image, Singapore has increasingly been trying to shed its conservative reputation to one that is hip and happening.
From the world’s first Formula One Night Racing event to the opening of its two brand new casinos, Singapore is buzzing right now with plenty of things to do despite being a tiny city-state.
The best way to see Singapore, at your own time and leisure, is by taking the MRT trains or buses. Clean, air-conditioned and seamlessly connected with one another, sightseeing in Singapore is a breeze as the city has one of the best transport systems in the world. However, if you prefer to go on a guided tour, you can hop on to the privately operated DUCKtour or HIPPOtours that will take you to different attractions around the city.
Tours can also be arranged through your hotel concierge. Some of Singapore’s gems that you should not miss include Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam.
Guided tours of Singapore City
The most common tours of Singapore take place via the DUCKtours or HIPPOtours. The former is a tour covering city attractions as well as Singapore’s harbour using an amphibious vehicle which can travel on land and sea.
The tour starts off at Suntec City before travelling through the historic Padang area and the War Memorial. Once it reaches Marina Bay, the vehicle sets sail for a cruise leading up the Lim Bo SengMemorial and the Merlion and then back to Suntec City. The tour departs daily from 10:00-18:00 at hourly intervals. Tickets cost SGD$35 for adults, SGD$18 for children 3-12 years and free for toddlers.
You can also ride the HiPPO for the Singapore Sightseeing Pass. This is a packaged tour comprising five excursions covering the city and the Singapore River. The tour includes the City HiPPOtours which connects hotels and major shopping malls along Orchard Road plus major attractions including the Botanic Gardens, Esplanade, Raffles Landing Site and Merlion Park. Second on the list is the Heritage HiPPOtours, operating in the North South direction. This tour showcases the major heritage sights in Singapore such as Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam (scroll down for more description).
Next is the HiPPO River Cruise which will take you to the Singapore River with live commentaries. Of course, visiting Singapore is not complete without experiencing Sentosa Island. This is included in the Sentosa Rhino Feeder tour which will take you from Suntec City and Orchard Road to Sentosa and back.
Do note that the SGD$2 island gate admission is not included. Last on the list is the Moonlight Adventure tour starting from Suntec City. The first stop will take you to Bugis Village for bazaar shopping and dinner followed by the “Songs of the Sea” show at Sentosa before returning for a city tour cruising down Clarke Quay and Orchard Road at night. Tickets are priced at SGD$23 for adults, SGD$13 for children 3-12 years free for toddlers 2 years and below.
Singapore walking tours
If you have plenty of time to spare, then we recommend you go for walking tours in Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam. At these places, you can get an appreciation of Singapore’s early settlers who have made Singapore to what it is today. Simply hop on to the MRT train and absorb the sights and sounds as you take a stroll down Singapore’s ethnic enclaves.
Little India has a charm of its own that is unlike any other places in Singapore. As its name suggests, Little India is a vibrant subcontinental enclave where you can hear Bollywood music blaring from CD stores, hunt for colourful saris or shop for spices and curries. During Deepavali the whole area comes to life with colourful street lights and festive shopping. Tourists love this place for its authenticity as the stalls here are geared towards locals.
Must visit places here are the three Hindu temples, two of which have been around for more than a century. You can go for a walking tour starting from Little India MRT station by walking up to Chander Road and over to Shree Lakshminarayan Temple (website: www.lakshminarayantemple.com). This Hindu temple was built it in 1969 and is dedicated to Lakshmi, the incarnation of the goddess Kali.
From Chander Road, turn right to Belilios Road where you can find the Sri Veerama Kaliamman Temple which was constructed in 1881. The best time to visit this temple is in the evening where you can see many devotees streaming in. (website:www.sriveeramakaliamman.com).
From there, you need to turn left and walk up Serangoon Road and pass by the junction of Rangoon Road to reach the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (website:www.heb.gov.sg). Built in 1855, it is today one of the two Hindu temples gazetted as a National Monument. Some of the major festivals celebrated here are Thaipusam, Navarathiri, Vaikunda Ekathesi and Purattasi Sani.
Of course, visiting Little India is not complete without the food and shopping experiences. For fish head curry, try Banana Leaf Apolo or at Little India Arcade. For a 24-hour shopping extravaganza head to Mustafa Shopping Centre (website: www.mustafa.com.sg) where you can get everything and anything under one roof. The toiletries and perfumes here are a bargain as they are retailed at prices much lower than what you get in shopping malls.
After touring Little India, you can simply hop on to the MRT train down to Chinatown MRT station. Exit at Pagoda Street where all the action is. This paved stretch was once a thriving coolie-trading place in the 1850s and has since been gazetted for conservation. Now part of the Chinatown Historic District, Pagoda Street is lined with bazaars selling all kinds of ornaments and trinkets. The Chinatown Heritage Centre (website: www.chinatownheritagecentre.sg) located within this stretch, will enable you to learn more about the history behind the early Chinese settlers here.
As you walk further, you will reach the junction of South Bridge Road. If you make a right turn, you will see Singapore’s largest and oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple (website:www.mosque.org.sg) built in the 1830’s.
Other attractions further down South Bridge Road, is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (website: www.btrts.org.sg), dedicated to Maitreya Buddha. This temple houses a sacred Buddha tooth relic in a stupa composed of 420kgs of gold. For authentic and affordable local fares, head down to The Chinatown Food Street at 355 Smith Street or the Maxwell Road Food Centre at the junction with South Bridge Road.